Insiders Guide to Winter Romance: 34 Ways to Woo Your Valentine
Anybody can buy a box of chocolates or order a dozen red roses, but it takes imagination to have an affair to remember. Our redoubtable husband-and-wife reporting team offer some suggestions to guarantee that Cupid’s arrow makes its mark.Get A RoomAin’t love grand? Well, you don’t have to say it with flowers, you can say it with a visit to one of New Hampshire’s majestic hotels or funky inns that have something a little extra to offer. There are many, but here are some of our favorites:1. At the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, every day seems romantic, but to make a couple’s stay extra special there is a French Kiss Romance package with French champagne, special turndown service and a French toast breakfast in bed.The hotel, which harkens back to the Gilded Age, was one of the most elegant hotels in the nation when it opened in 1902, when as many as 50 trains a day stopped in Bretton Woods.Hey, if it was good enough for Thomas Edison, Babe Ruth and three U.S. presidents, it should be good enough for you and your honey.2. If the hilltop location and the gorgeous views aren’t enough to attract you, the winter indulgence package at the Mountain View Grand in Whitefield might. Lodgers get a bottle of champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries upon arrival. Get a little fresh air and take advantage of free snowshoes, ice skates and snow tubes and unwind with a Swedish massage for the two of you.3. Make a spirited escape with your significant other to the Spalding Inn in Whitefield, which is said to be haunted, at least according to Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, co-hosts of the “Ghost Hunters” television show. If you get together enough friends to rent eight rooms, they will put together a special ghost hunters package with tours of the ghostly hot spots and a viewing of the Ghost Hunters episode that featured the inn. But don’t worry, the specters are said to be friendly.4. Treat your beloved like a star with a visit to the Sugar Hill Inn, which Bette Davis once frequented. The inn, open since the 17th century, was a favorite of Jezebel. Her favorite room, now called the Bette Davis Luxury Suite, has a movie queen-sized bed, a large sitting area and a gas fireplace. Davis visited the area frequently in the ’30s and ’40s and was once married to a local innkeeper.5. If going to the movies rather than going to the movie star’s room is more your idea of romance, The Centennial Hotel in downtown Concord is offering a special dinner and a movie package that includes an overnight stay as well as two tickets to the state’s premier independent film showcase, the Red River Theater, and a $25 gift card for dinner at the Granite Restaurant and Bar, the recently renovated Queen Anne-style landmark hotel.For PlayYes, love has to be spontaneous, but sometimes it’s romantic to actually plan ahead of time to do something together.6. Head for the hills and a stay overnight at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Joe Dodge Lodge at the base of Mount Washington. The accommodations are rather rustic, but isn’t that the point? Meals are served family-style in a cozy room with a fieldstone fireplace and you can’t beat the view. Oh, and don’t forget that winter hiking gear.7. If you’re feeling more adventurous take a hike up the highest peak in the Northeast on the Mount Washington Observatory Overnight led by the guides at Eastern Mountain Sports. Participants stay overnight at the famous mountaintop observatory. EMS will provide ice axes, crampons and plastic double-walled boots, as well as dinner and breakfast on the trips, which will be held Feb. 11-12 and 18-19.8. Get in touch with your inner Tarzan and Jane on a zipline canopy tour of the White Mountain foothills. Alpine Adventures conducts the treetop cable tours that begin in Lincoln, where participants are fitted with harnesses and helmets, then given a brief introduction. They are then transported in a Swiss Army vehicle to the summit of Barron Mountain, where they are attached to a pulley and zip downhill from treetop to treetop 80 feet above the forest floor on six cables ranging in length from 80 to 900 feet. There is also a 75-foot-long treetop rope suspension bridge worthy of Johnny Weissmuller.9. Take your Valentine ice skating, snowshoeing, cross country skiing or for a sleigh ride at Nestlenook, the 65-acre recreation-only (no accommodations) resort in Jackson.10. If you’d rather let a horse do the work while you go dashing through the snow, sleigh rides are offered there as well as at The Balsams, in Dixville Notch, and the Omni Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods. At the Darby Field Inn in Albany, the sleigh pulls right up to the front door.11. But adventures don’t always have to be outdoors. The Chez Boucher Cooking School in Hampton has a Couple’s Night Out. You and your significant other may participate in a hands-on cooking demonstration and enjoy the resulting four-course dinner.12. Visitors to The Balsams may have the run of the largest kitchen in the Northeast at a three-day cooking demonstration, Feb. 3-5, featuring the foods of France.Historic RomanceEvery timeless romance deserves a historical setting, and if you’re lucky, maybe you can make a little history of your own at one of New Hampshire’s many historic inns.13. Built when George Washington was still in his first term, The Hancock Inn is considered by many to be the oldest inn in the state still in operation and one of the oldest in New England. It has accommodated overnight visitors for more than 220 years. In the 1940s inn owners Foster and Martha Stearns uncovered wall murals in one of the bedrooms that had been painted by the famous 19th-century itinerant artist, inventor and journalist Rufus Porter during the earliest days of the inn. Later, stenciling by Hancock artist and Rufus friend, Moses Eaton Jr., was discovered under layers of wallpaper in the chambermaid’s closet.The inn has 15 rooms and an award-winning restaurant.14. In addition to the tavern, dining and guest rooms, since it was built in 1775 The Birchwood Inn in Temple has been a post office, general store, town meeting hall and an antique shop.Henry David Thoreau once visited during his Mount Monadnock area meanderings, and the guest lounge also has an early 19th-century mural by Rufus Porter.Don’t miss the graveyard across the road that has graves dating back to the early American Revolution.Over 230 years later the inn is now owned by natives of the United Kingdom, who have added a European touch while maintaining historical integrity. There is a British-style tavern in the basement, where you can hoist a pint of ale and sample shepherd’s pie and bangers and mash, and have some spotted dick and custard for dessert, whether you’re an overnight guest or just visiting for the day.15. Even the history of The Wentworth in Jackson is romantic. It was built in 1869 as a private residence, a wedding gift for Georgia Trickey and her husband Gen. Marshall Wentworth, and as legend has it, was the inspiration for Wentworth by the Sea. The resort has recently gone through a major renovation and is known for its five-course candlelight dinners.Accommodations range from standard lodging to deluxe rooms and suites. If you really want to make your honey feel special you might want to check in to the Thornycroft honeymoon room, with a king-sized canopy bed, gas fireplace in the bedroom and bathroom, antique and handmade furniture and a sunken oversized whirlpool tub.16. The Greek Revival Thayers Inn opened on Main Street in Littleton in 1850 and has welcomed President Ulysses S. Grant, showman P.T. Barnum and his diminutive protégé Tom Thumb among scores of notable historic figures. The hotel has set aside one room as a re-creation of what an accommodation would have looked like if you’d checked in 150 years ago. As a nice modern juxtaposition, the hotel’s Bailiwicks Fine Restaurant and Martini Bar features a modern fine dining menu.Happy EndingsFor Marcel Proust it was “petites madeleines” that he described as those squat, plump little cakes that “look as though they had been molded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell” that caused him to “shudder” with pleasure and experience a flood of long-forgotten, loving memories.17. Tell your sweetheart that story then head to Madeleines bakery across from the Statehouse in Concord to try not only their amazing take on the Proustian confection but other French pastries like palmiers, Napoleons and éclairs.You can sit at charming café tables and sip espresso with your sweets, and if you’re there on a Friday night, listen to live folk music.18. Kiss the raspberry jam from your loved one’s lips after splitting a buttery linzer torte or let her use your cappuccino to dunk a fresh-baked biscotti at Patisserie Bleu on Main Street in Nashua.19. For the past 30 years, Ceres Bakery in Portsmouth has been bringing sweetness to the Seacoast, and they’re proudest of their wide variety of cookies: “We make over 1,000,000 kinds of cookies (almost).”Well, they do make a lot, and if your honey is a Cookie Monster at heart, bring home some penhallows with oatmeal, walnuts, white and dark chocolate, snitz with chocolate chips, coconut, pecans and lemon zest, kitchen sink cookies with chocolate chips, cranberries, white chocolate, walnuts and coconut — and don’t forget the cocoa hearts.Cheek to CheekSome people fall in love. Others trip the light fandango into it.20. Dance the night away at the Rockingham Ballroom in Newmarket. The hall first opened in 1934 during the Great Depression when swing was king. During the heyday of the big bands all the greats played there — Glenn Miller, the Dorsey Brothers, Artie Shaw. The magnificent rock maple dance floor rests on springs so you are practically floating on air. The ballroom’s current owner is Bob Yergeau, who is also a Justice of the Peace, so you can arrange to tie the knot between a waltz and a foxtrot if you are so disposed.21. If you’re a woman wanting to strut your stuff, the Bliss Healing Arts Center in Manchester offers classes in pole dancing, burlesque and belly dancing.22. If your partner would rather sit the dance out, you might want tickets to the musical, Swing Fever, which will be on stage at the Palace Theatre in Manchester through February. This new musical was inspired in part by the television show, “Dancing with the Stars.” A live band and singers accompany the dancers who will Lindy Hop, East Coast, West Coast, Jitterbug, Shag and Balboa — all danced to the music from the 1920s to the present.QuickiesFor those Tristans and Isoldes with a shortage of time there are plenty of opportunities for quick romantic gestures in the Granite State — some of which you can even do in absentia.23. Even if you have a singing voice that makes small children and animals run for cover you can still serenade your honey — well, somebody can. On Valentine’s Day weekend, The Granite Statesmen will send a tuxedo-wearing barbershop quartet to serenade your lover and hand them a red rose and a photograph of their surprised expression. The songsters will travel within a 30-mile radius of Nashua. Call (886) SING (7464) or register at www.granitestatesmen.org.24. Don’t want to express your love in a song? What about a poem? Better yet — what about a poem written in chocolate? Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Swan Chocolates in Merrimack and Nashua have developed a new line of truffles imprinted with individual romantic words that can be arranged into a sonnet, ode or limerick if you’re a little frisky — think Magnetic Poetry meets Willy Wonka. Call (603) 423-5950 or visit www.swanchocolates.com.25. Speaking of chocolates, you can send your honey sweet little nothings from Van Otis Chocolates in Manchester by shopping online at vanotischocolates.com, including milk, white or dark chocolate key-to-your-heart (shown above, $7.99 plus shipping). Or if you’re hinting at a romantic breakfast, you could choose Cocoa for Two with mini marshmallows in a Valentine cone ($5.99) or 100 percent pure New Hampshire Maple Syrup in collectible leaf-shaped bottles ($4.99 to $14.99).26. Shower your Valentine with an assortment of goodies contained in the Valentine’s Day Tower of Love ($45) from L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates in Walpole. Inside this sheer red organza-wrapped tower are delightful treats from heart-shaped bonbons and mini linzer cakes to chocolate-dipped fruit and truffles. The tower of four tins is tied off with a red satin bow.27. If you’re the type that feels it’s real love only when you see fireworks, you might want to head to Hooksett Fireworks, where they claim the only pyrotechnics which qualify for their store have to make your heart beat faster, make your eyes open wider and make you wish you could see it again and again. Sounds like amour to us. Their choice for Valentine’s Day — Love on Fire ($39.99), which shoots up red and white chrysanthemums and colorful stars with fan-shaped silver crackling.And, if you’ve already popped the question, Atlas PyroVision Productions in Jaffrey is known for its amazing wedding displays. You choose the music and Atlas’ team will choreograph an amazing expression of your love with fire and color.Let’s Do ItFebruary is a traditional time to propose marriage and New Hampshire offers plenty of ways to add a twist to your big day.28. Betrothal is a piece of cake, wedding cake that is, at Wentworth by the Sea in New Castle. It offers a special engagement package that includes two nights’ luxurious accommodations in a private suite. A romantic table for two at the Wentworth Dining Room, breakfast each morning, a bottle of chilled champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries and a rose petal turndown service are included. As the folks at the Wentworth say, they can’t guarantee a yes, but they can make it hard to say no.This grand New Hampshire hotel, built in 1874, has a long history of successful unions. The Treaty of Portsmouth formally ended the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War. It was signed at the Wentworth on September 5, 1905, after negotiations at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
29. Getting engaged can make you feel on top of the world, so why not pop the question there? Cranmore Mountain will resume its Meister Hut wine dinners featuring a four-course menu with wine pairings in the rustic setting of the mountaintop Meister Hut, offered between Jan. 9–Feb. 20. Guests choose between a selection of five entrées, each accompanied by a matched wine selection. Diners reach the summit via the high-speed express quad. The dinner is open to skiers and non-skiers alike with a welcome reception starting at 6 p.m. each evening. There’s limited seating. Reservations may be made by calling (603) 356-5544.If romantic weekends and wine dinners are out of your league or comfort zone to ask for your lover’s hand, how about flowers, lots and lots of sensual flowers?30. Head over to The Rapture of Orchids, the 19th Annual New Hampshire Orchid Society Show at the Radisson Hotel in Nashua Valentine’s Day weekend. Pick any of the dozens of amazing orchid displays, drink in the earthy scent, warm air and stunning colors and perhaps throw in a little bit of poetry like this from Amy Lowell:Life is a stream
on which we strew
petal by petal the flower of our heart It’s a sure-fire romantic formula for a little rapture of your own. Admission is $10 for adults or $15 for a three-day pass.Afternoon DelightsRomance doesn’t always have to include a night at an inn or a weekend in the mountains. An afternoon romantic interlude can be just as, well, delightful.31. On Valentine’s Day Trio Veritas will perform “In a Romantic Mood” at a 1 p.m concert of romantic music at Plymouth State University’s Smith Recital Room. The unusual trio of pianist Dan Perkins, oboist Margaret Herlehy and cellist Sandi Jo Malmon will perform love-inspired compositions by Beethoven, Adler and Ressanovic, while Elizabeth Cox, director of theater at the university, enhances the performance with readings of personal letters to and from the composers. Visit www.plymouth.edu for ticket information.32. Music not your thing? Get mushy with your significant other by dashing through the woods on dogsleds at the Omni Mount Washington Resort or The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel. The exuberant pooches from the Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel offer 20-minute and one-hour rides at the Mount Washington. You’ll be in the hands of experienced mushers, including meeting the dog team, taking a ride with one or two of your friends or family members and maybe even driving the sled. You can explore some of the 8,000-acre estate that comprise The Balsams (www.thebalsams.com) à la Alaskan husky power. Don’t worry, you’ll be in the hands of experienced mushers. Think of it as a mini Iditarod for two.Cheap ThrillsSometimes frugal is sexy, too — especially these days. Here are some romantic ideas for those who have a heart but may not have a bundle.33. Does it get any more romantic than Omar Sharif’s frozen beard and Julie Christie’s blue lips? Take your honey to the Valentine’s evening screening of the David Lean 1965 love saga, “Dr. Zhivago” at Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center film series in Hanover. The film starts at 7 p.m. Admission is $7. Call (603) 646-2422 for ticket information.34. If you re not artsy enough to make a Valentine or write a poem, why not show your sweetheart your cultured side with a trip to the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, which is filled with romantic images. Our choices: “Banquet of Antony and Cleopatra,” Jan de Bray, 1669; Henri Matisse’s “Seated Nude,” bronze sculpture, 1922-1925; and the face that launched a thousand ships, “Helen of Troy,” 1615, by Hendrick Goltzius.Afterward, rest your tootsies and play footsie at the Currier’s Winter Garden Café where wine is sold by the glass and serves as a great (and affordable) accompaniment to a homemade macaroon or a boutique cheese and savory crackers.
Pssst! Admission is free on Saturdays, 10 a.m. to noon.